Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them

The 12 Things Toxic People Do and How to Deal With Them

We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it’s more like a drenching. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them – only to never really get there.

Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, ‘It’s not them, it’s me.’ They can have you questioning your ‘over-reactiveness’, your ‘oversensitivity’, your ‘tendency to misinterpret’. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behaviour to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.

Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.

There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

  1. They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.

    They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right. They might be prickly, sad, cold or cranky and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ – but they’ll give you just enough  to let you know that there’s something. The ‘just enough’ might be a heaving sigh, a raised eyebrow, a cold shoulder. When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. See why it works for them?

    Stop trying to please them. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren’t working or aren’t lasting for very long, maybe it’s time to stop. Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You are not responsible for anybody else’s feelings. If you have done something unknowingly to hurt somebody, ask, talk about it and if need be, apologise. At any rate, you shouldn’t have to guess.

  1. They’ll manipulate.

    If you feel as though you’re the only one contributing to the relationship, you’re probably right. Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out. ‘I’ve left that six months’ worth of filing for you. I thought you’d appreciate the experience and the opportunity to learn your way around the filing cabinets.’ Or, ‘I’m having a dinner party. Why don’t you bring dinner. For 10. It’ll give you a chance to show off those kitchen skills. K?’

    You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not.

  2. They won’t own their feelings.

    Rather than owning their own feelings, they’ll act as though the feelings are yours. It’s called projection, as in projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them. It might be as subtle as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or a bit more pointed, ‘Why are you angry at me,’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’

    You’ll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you. Be really clear on what’s yours and what’s theirs. If you feel as though you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to. You don’t have to explain, justify or defend yourself or deal with a misfired accusation. Remember that.

  3. They’ll make you prove yourself to them.

    They’ll regularly put you in a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then they’ll unfold the drama.  ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’  The problem with this is that enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal – unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait.

  4. They never apologise. 

    They’ll lie before they ever apologise, so there’s no point arguing. They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

    People don’t have to apologise to be wrong. And you don’t need an apology to move forward. Just move forward – without them. Don’t surrender your truth but don’t keep the argument going. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.

  5. They’ll be there in a crisis but they’ll never ever share your joy.

    They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news. The classics: About a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ About a holiday at the beach – ‘Well it’s going to be very hot. Are you sure you want to go?’ About being made Queen of the Universe – ‘Well the Universe isn’t that big you know and I’m pretty sure you won’t get tea breaks.’ Get the idea? Don’t let them dampen you or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter.

  6. They’ll leave a conversation unfinished – and then they’ll go offline.

    They won’t pick up their phone. They won’t answer texts or emails. And in between rounds of their voicemail message, you might find yourself playing the conversation or argument over and over in your head, guessing about the status of the relationship, wondering what you’ve done to upset them, or whether they’re dead, alive or just ignoring you – which can sometimes all feel the same. People who care about you won’t let you go on feeling rubbish without attempting to sort it out. That doesn’t mean you’ll sort it out of course, but at least they’ll try. Take it as a sign of their investment in the relationship if they leave you ‘out there’ for lengthy sessions.

  7. They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.

    The message might be innocent enough but the tone conveys so much more. Something like, ‘What did you do today?’ can mean different things depending on the way it’s said. It could mean anything from ‘So I bet you did nothing – as usual,’ to ‘I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask.’ When you question the tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.

  8. They’ll bring irrelevant detail into a conversation.

    When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. The problem with this is that before you know it, you’re arguing about something you did six months ago, still defending yourself, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. Somehow, it just always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them.

  9. They’ll make it about the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.

    You might be trying to resolve an issue or get clarification and before you know it, the conversation/ argument has moved away from the issue that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talked about it – whether there is any issue with your manner or not. You’ll find yourself defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way your belly moves when you breathe – it doesn’t even need to make sense. Meanwhile, your initial need is well gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.

  10. They exaggerate.

    ‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the argument. You won’t win. And you don’t need to.

  11. They are judgemental.

    We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake. We’re all allowed to get it wrong now and then, but unless we’ve done something that affects them nobody has the right to stand in judgement.

Knowing the favourite go-to’s for toxic people will sharpen your radar, making the manipulations easier to spot and easier to name. More importantly, if you know the characteristic signs of a toxic person, you’ll have a better chance of catching yourself before you tie yourself in double knots trying to please them.

Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. You can always say no to unnecessary crazy. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You don’t need anyone’s approval but remember if someone is working hard to manipulate, it’s probably because they need yours. You don’t always have to give it but if you do, don’t let the cost be too high.


Castaly Lombe

18 months ago I separated from a man after 25 years marriage who displayed all 12 of these behaviours. Towards the end I thought I was going crazy. I went to see a psychologist who was an enormous help. I went to save my marriage, but instead, got clarity and got out. Now – with the benefit of time and distance – I have some perspective. I am shocked how – a smart woman, well educated and competent – was suckered in – he was a consumate manipulator. But abuse is abuse, be it physical or emotional. And if you are suckered in by this toxic behaviour, don’t be harsh on yourself, emotional abuse can be very difficult to distinguish, especially if you are a kind person who believes in taking on advice in an open way. I had naively though that someone who loved you wouldn’t hurt you. This is very much turned around and used against you! It took me ages to see his love was very much about him and making me wrong and him right. He was controlling and critical. Eventually I’ve come to believe there was nothing wrong with me! It’s taken time. I found the book ” Too Good to Leave to Bad to Stay” also very helpful is diagnosing my situation and giving me courage to leave. I am still negotiating a settlement with him – which is incredibly difficult because of his selfish beliefs – but much less difficult than living with him 24/7. I am grateful for this article – I wish I’d read it 25 years ago. One further point – if you know someone like this, leave – it’s very unlikely they’ll change. I thought if I was good enough he would change – big mistake. PS I have since met an amazing man who is open hearted, balanced, kind and generous. He thinks I am amazing and can’t believe his luck at meeting me and falling in love. I can’t believe how sane and WONDERFUL a “normal” relationship feels. So very much middle- aged and getting a second chance. Go for it.


Beautifully said. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. You never know who it will be giving strength to at just the right time. I’m so pleased you were able to do what was right for you and are now finding happiness. Good things tend to come when we put ourselves on the right path.


It is wonderful to hear and know that you saved yourself from all those years of pain. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully myself, and now at 67 years old trying to live on my social security retirement benefits, it’s literally impossible for me to leave and he knows this. We’ve lived together since 1996, never married, with everything of course in his name. I’m doomed. Again, so very happy for you. Shame on me. I’m trying to stay humble even when I know and truly believe that kindness is the soul to our hearts. 💕 Blessings XOXO


Salute to you, I am admitting I am a toxic person. I cheated on my lovely wife. I did all the things mentioned above to her. She is very generous and kind hearted. I love her but due to my sex greed, I cheated on her with her niece. I am feeling very sad and exhausted. I want to save this relationship but did all these toxic behaviours to my wife. What I can do? I am an Indian. How I change myself and also save my married life.

Richard M

We thought we had friends. They even took us in for several months, only charging US $500 for us staying there. This was for rent to sleep on their couch, but they called us names and treated us like crap the whole time we were there and kept asking us to buy things and even talked us into paying bills for them and if we said no they would constantly put us down or call us greedy. We lost everything in the fire and all they did was keep us broke. When we moved out they spread rumors and lies about us and called my wife a horrible bunch of names and said she was lying about being pregnant. She accused us of being greedy, but for the 9 weeks we were there they sucked 5897.00 out of are pocket. We recovered but we found they were not friends, which was sad.


I recently broke off a friendship with a toxic person who showed all 12 signs listed in this article. This friend would call only if she wanted something from me and twist it so if I refused, I was a bad friend. Often weeks would go by without contact until I called to ask how she was then I would hear a litany of woes. Rarely a good day. Also, I was surpised each time if she asked how I was doing.

I finally sent her a letter letting her know why I needed a break from the friendship for the time being. Other people had stopped hanging out with her and she would wonder why. I thought it would be better not to leave her in the dark, point out behavior patterns without accusing her and hope that she would alter her behavior because she was hurting so many people… I know, it was a stretch.

She runs hot and cold. I was expecting one of three reactions/responses (least likely to most likely):
1. she would call me crying, begging forgiveness and with promises to change
2. she would call me up crying and angry, tell me off and hang up
3. she wouldn’t respond to me at all.

I chose to write a letter because I could get out what I wanted to say and not have my words twisted back on me while I was speaking. I wrote without malice but I cannot control how she read the letter.

So far, I haven’t gotten a reply. My assumption is that she didn’t like having some behavior patterns pointed out so she probably will not contact me for awhile, if ever.

I think if anyone needs to break contact with a toxic person, they should let that toxic person know why. Yes, the toxic person will probably get mad but I think pointing out behavior patterns in a kind way is better than just not saying anything at all.


This is really well said and you make a great point. Being able to say why you’re breaking contact can also be a form of closure so that nothing is left unsaid. Being able to say what you need to say without expectation of a response is a real strength. The very nature of someone toxic means that they are less likely to hear anything negative about what they’re doing. Though all of us make mistakes and can treat the people we care about poorly at times, we’re generally quick to put it right when we realise. That’s the difference. You sound as though you are responding from strength and wisdom and have done all you can. Keep movig forward – if your friend wants to catch up she will, but you can never know who is waiting for you further down the track. There would be so many people who would love to have you as a friend and will be more able to give you the love and respect you deserve. Ending any friendship or relationship is hard though, isn’t it – even if you know it’s for the right reasons.


Diane, I understand the daily hell you are going through – I have narcissistic parents, have a broken marriage due to another personality disorder, and have recently broken off a relationship with a narcissitic man when I recognised the pattern.

As the lady from HeySigmund said, there are loads of poeple out there that now know what you are going through and will be thinking of you through this. When you feel alone, remember that.

In the end, that is the most shallow victory I have ever heard of, but then he will be a very shallow man. Even if he has your love still, it will diminish now you know what he is, and he does not have your respect. Every day that passes, your youngest child gets closer to being 18 – he won’t be able to control you forever.

Hang on in there, you are stronger than him and you’re doing the right thing for your kids – they need someone to put them first, and it won’t be him. Get help and support however you can – online chats or phone helplines, anything that helps you keep perspective and sanity because you know that’s what he will be aiming at taking next.

Your kids will always need you, and they are lucky to have a Mother who knows what love is. Take care of yourself, he hasn’t got your mind trapped. You know what he is now – he can never fool you again.


I’m married to a narcissist and this article describes my everyday battle to survive. I tried leaving once with the kids, and the onslaught of terror and hell that he directed at me left me cowered in a corner. He lied, cheated, and manipulated the situation with the courts until I was destroyed- made to look insane and incapable of caring for our children- and he was given the children. The children he’s never even bothered to change a diaper for or remember their birth dates. The children he didn’t want and accused me of getting him drunk (he’s an alcoholic) and seducing him when I was fertile so I could get pregnant without his consent. For years I thought he was just having a bad day and that’d he see my value and remember why he fell in love with me. It wasn’t until we had three kids and had been married a decade that I read something about narcissistic personality disorder online and had the biggest “a-ha” moment of my life. From that moment everything fell into place like a million piece jigsaw puzzle. Not one piece out of place. That’s when I tried leaving with the kids. It finally hit me that he had never loved me and never would. He’s incapable of love….except for himself. The man I had fallen for- that charming, funny, intelligent, kind, sweet man I had met didn’t exist. It was an act while he got his claws in his next supply. He needed someone new to suck dry until they are nothing more than a dried out shell of their former self. Ican’t leave again. I won’t leave my kids in this kind of life and I won’t lose them. He won. He has me trapped.


Oh Diane, I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. You’re kids are so lucky to have you. I can hear how important they are and one day they’ll understand what you’ve been through for them. Whatever he thinks of you, make sure you always know you’re better than that – because you are. Look at what you’re doing for your kids. You’re extraordinary. I hope you can recognise that this is a decision you’re making in strength, because you are exceptionally strong. It would be really easy to feel defeated but don’t let him have the win. You’re the strong one. You’re the one going to extraordinary lengths for your kids. You’re the one with the clarity and wisdom. I understand you feel stuck there for now, but it won’t always be that way. Do you have people you can trust who are looking out for you? If not, are you able to talk to a counsellor, even if only to make sure you feel as though you have someone in your corner. Know that you would have a world of people behind you.

52 and just seeing the light

I know the feeling so well…I was so lost for so long knowing deep down there was something missing. It was an emotional attachment he never had and win his verbal abuse I grew ton enjoy the good and accept the bad. But after 30 years it seems my whole life haso been a lie. I just keep telling myself there is better on the horizon. Good luck to you all.

Hey Sigmund

It can take a long time for good people to see what toxic people are doing because it’s so hard to believe that anyone could treat people the way toxic people do. I know that you feel as though your life has been a lie, but I really want you to hear that no experience is ever wasted. You will have emerged from this with a mountain of strength, wisdom and self-awareness all of which will be setting you up for a better version of your life than the one you’ve been living – just wait and see.

Iva Ursano

I’m sorry, what? You can’t? You’re trapped? He won? I’m shaking my head over here. I pray for you to find the strength to know that YOU are far more important and deserve to live a life of happiness, not the misery you describe. Your children deserve more too. Many, including myself, have been in similar situations, even worse and have managed to leave and find happiness and freedom. I get that everyone’s situation is different. I totally get that. Have faith for goodness sake!!!!

Hey Sigmund

It’s important to remember that we can’t possibly know what somebody else is going through. Diane, it sounds as though you’ve put up an incredible fight – and that you still are.


Diane said he was able to get custody of the children–through the courts. If she leaves, she leaves without her children. So, she’s either “trapped” there to be with her children, or she leaves them behind in her quest to be free.

I applaud you, Diane, for being a wonderful, caring and selfless mother. I have no doubt that when your children are grown they will realize the sacrifices you made to protect them and love you even more for it.

Don’t give up hope, maybe he will tire of you and leave you AND the kids. I wish you the best.


Sadly this so called existence that you have described has also became my fate. There is no good time to get out of this toxic hell.

I have been stuck for 38 years. 4 years ago I realised that I had become the living dead. I finally left him when my parents died. I am nearly out but the hard bit comes when you expect to take anything with you.

I am still fighting but he has turned our children against me. They know that he is a control freak, an alcoholic and difficult but no one can deal with him. He drip feeds them money without my knowledge and love bombs them with gifts from our joint estate.

I have found that staying with my abusive husband was soul destroying but now his tactics have changed. He is trying to control me outside the relationship through family and his friends.

He has left me that I don’t know who to trust.

His friends sneer at me in the street. The speak to me on an information gathering mission. If I ignore them it fuels their antics.

I realise now that I have to leave the area I have lived in and move away from my children. In my 60’s this is daunting but if I stay he will use family occasions and our children to control me.

It’s sad the lengths that toxic people will take to maintain control.

The vultures are circling him and he is focussed on destroying me.

I have found the only way to deal with a control freak is through the JADE system.
No justifying
No arguing with them
No denying
No explaining

Keep your thoughts to yourself and try to muddle through the best you can. Gather evidence as you can praying for early release and be ready to go when you can with what you can take.

Your not alone. There is a silent secret organisation of lost souls praying for early parole.


Diane you can leave. Take back your power, get those kids and get the hell out of there. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children! Think about it, they are in a toxic environment and the dysfunction they are exposed to will damage them. There are safe houses and those who will help you until you get on your feet. My mother told me something very wise. She told me to sock away small amounts of money in an account that you tell “NOBODY” about, not even your kids. That money will grow. When and if the time comes that you need that money to get out, get a lawyer or what ever you will have it. It’s called a F*@K you account. A mama bear will tear to shreds the one who endangers her offspring. Get your power back, get your haunches up and do something. Don’t just fold your hands and give up.

Iva Ursano

Amen Andrea!! Absolutely NO ONE is here to live like that. We are here to experience joy, love, beauty and be ridiculously happy. That’s why we are here.

Sigmund I totally get what you are saying. I understand we don’t know what people are going through. I get that, BUT there is always a way out. The only thing she is doing for her kids is putting them through the same torment she is going through. Period. Find a way out and stop telling a story of sadness. Turn that story into happiness and freedom. Your story is going to get old one day. Get out. IT’S NOT going to be easy BUT it is soooooo worth it. My God you owe it to yourself.


She isn’t here to live like that, yes, but that may be where she has to be right now, no matter how much we are worried for her and wish things were different. When I read her words, I read that getting out of the marriage with her children intact and with her isn’t a possibility right now. Platitudes won’t help her right now. I think that compassionate practical advice (like the “tuck the small amount of $ away over time”) would be more helpful (I might add: document everything- and Mail copies offsite to a trusted friend) as well as our emotional support and belief that she will eventually find a way out. I’m sending those last two to you, Diane, in spades!



I don’t think you understand the brevity of dealing with a narcissist energy vampire. These people are like machines that don’t feel real emotions like you and I. Their need is to dominate and destroy. Their is no casual withdraw from them, you must make a clean break. They get into your head and that is where real damage takes place. They suck your life energy out of you until you can’t leave. They manipulate you and have you thinking you are crazy and that your decisions are based on insane ideas you have in your head. The problem is you believed them when you didn’t know about them, and that is when they surreptitiously planted the seeds of doubt. Diane, don’t second guess yourself. This monster has planted lies in your head about everything. Narcissists are the great pretenders. They loathe themselves and everyone else, then build a false persona that appears to you as everything you ever wanted in a mate. They need to feed this false persona to keep it alive. They will destroy everyone around them including the children. Diane, put on your own mask and pretend all is well. Go about what you need to do in secret and plan your escape. And while you are doing it, don’t think you are imagining this, or second guess yourself. Look up Narcissistic Personality disorder and you will recognise this monster for what it is.


Responding to Andrea’s response.

Actually, I do understand. I understand intimately as a step-child of a narcissist. I have been made to feel crazy, to feel unsafe and trapped, to unworthy of living… to the very edge of what that means and very nearly over that edge. And I had to make the clean break in the dead of night with just a garbage bag as a teen. I know. I imagine that most of us reading the article *know.*

But the point in replying was that Diane was likely expressing how she was feeling *today* – overwhelmed and stuck. Today, currently, she IS stuck. Perhaps, most likely, not forever, and she knows that. My concern is/was that the response of “no, you’re wrong, get out,” can unintentially discount her emotional experience. I’ve come to believe that we help best when we start by first hearing the other before “fixing” it. I would have found it demoralizing to have expressed such pain and frustration to be then told that my experience of feeling stuck right now is wrong.

I believe we can support her without telling her she’s wrong and damaging her kids in every day she stays. She is hearing a message of “wrongness” every day from her narcissist spouse. I don’t want my anger and distress toward the narcissist in my life to color my compassion toward her. I believe she has contemplated and assessed her situation (needing to protect her children from being in his care alone, or being homeless and having them removed) and is making the call based on the specific factors she is dealing with. I hope fervently that she can find ways to shift factors enough to change that, and am struggling to think about what I might know or be able to do to assist. To do that properly, one needs to hear her, and feel her experience, in order to bolster her with support and perhaps practical info. But it starts first with hearing the person where they are at. And I felt like we were jumping over that straight into do theoretical advice.


There is always a way out…and remember that! It might not be this year, or the next, but keep in mind, and plan for the day, when you are free to live the life you and your children deserve. Try to stay true to your self, and educate yourself for the future. Be the healthy person in the family for your children. Place all of your personal documents in a safe and secure area (not at your house). Keep copies of your tax records for the past three years. Try to keep family life as “normal” as possible, and you will eventually see the light that you and your children deserve.


I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. That must be extremely difficult. You deserve better! Whatever your decision is, just be sure to reach out for help and avoid toxic people as much as possible. (whether it be emotionally only if you feel you must stay in the relationship) so that you are not damaged even more. Since the court system has taken his side, you, as well as your children (depending on age and what you feel is appropriate) can go to Al-anon meetings for the sake of being able to vent with others who share similar experiences. At least you would have some kind of an outlet that doesn’t cost anything. There may be other support groups out there too for you and your children that are free of charge. Any outside support that you can get would be beneficial. I personally have found that outside support, outside of people I know in my life, are the most beneficial. Support group meetings are great and I always feel better after going to them. There is no one judging you or making you feel bad about yourself. God bless you and your children and I will keep you and your precious angels in my prayers!

Patricia Chubb

Oh Diane, I don’t know you but feel as if I do. I am the only child of a narcissistic mother with an enabling father. While she had me in her clutches for 50 years until I realized that it wasn’t me, at least I could divorce her. Just goes to show you no matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always someone in a bigger pickle. I cried when I read your story, recognizing that trapped feeling. If you haven’t already, search narcissistic personality disorder and look for one or two sites that you identify with. There’s lots out there and it’s almost overwhelming, so just pick a few. Also there was an article in Forbes maybe 2012 about how to shut down a narcissist. While online resources will give you lots of validation, get a good therapist if you can afford it. I’ve been going for 4 years (started weekly, now only monthly) and it saved my life.
Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for you. Better days are coming, I promise.


Diane, I totally understand where you are coming from. Once you work up the courage to leave, you think the courts are going to be supportive and see the abuse, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go that way and the abuser wins in court. (Domestic Violence groups teach that a man who is narcissistic is more likely to fight for full custody, just for the power trip and since so few men will take the custody battle to that extreme, the court is impressed and labels them a “good father”). People that aren’t in your situation won’t understand. Heck, I didn’t understand until it happened to me! They just tell you to leave and it isn’t that easy. While filing for divorce, my counselor recommended I take the children to a women’s shelter for safety and counseling. The court accused me of abducting them and rewarded the father with more time. While we lived at the women’s shelter, I was ordered to continue paying the father’s health insurance ($350/month) because he didn’t work and I had a good job. He got the family home because he refused to leave. I lost all my savings, cashed out my life insurance, maxed out credit cards to pay for attorneys. He hired a criminal defense lawyer and paid over $40,000. I would have never believed this could happen to me and the court would side with him. The court psychologist and child custody evaluator wrote “no overnight visits with dad” and were flabbergasted at the judge’s decision to give him 50% custody. I fought and appealed for four years. So, I just want to say whether you stay or go, you are doing the best you can for your children and it will be enough. Your eyes are open to him and you can teach your children how to recognize the toxicity and break the generational curse. Surround yourself with good, healthy people and ask God to guide you on your next steps. Praying for you sister! P.S. if there is sexual abuse of the children, ignore my advice and flee to New Zealand.


Diane please do not give up. Please search for help. There´s much more awareness about these matters today. Show them the info you´ve found about it. Try filming recording some evidence. Please just do not give up! I am praying for you.


Diane I started to tear up reading your post. I relate to every word you say. I am in almost an identical situation. I chose Spiritualism as an escape. It’s helped greatly. I think non stop daily how I can some how get the kids and I out safely. Stay strong.


Oh Diane,
I’m so sorry! I left my ex several years ago, but until someone handed me an article on narcissism I had NO IDEA what I was dealing with. Knowing brought some sort of peace.
My thoughts are with you!!!!!

Grsce M

Get out your kids are not happy your stronger he’s a nut that will never change I have two in my family mom and a sister
I don’t like conflict but when I have to I can hold my own and fight back

Susan A

You are strong remember that. I to was in the exact spot as u. I met my husband when I was 16 . Even got warned by his sisters that he was just like his dad and that their mom had to move clear cross the us to get away from him. We have some good years but I didn’t realize the emotional control and mental abuse he was doing since we met. That toke me 17 years to finally seem we were together 26 years and had three beautiful children the first two he kind ccepted but the baby was the one he accused me of manipulating him in to making. He accused me of hiding the fact that I was ovulating .even though I told him everyday of those three days, and he made sure we did it repedly just those days. When we might have been together once a month then. He liked to hold it against me if. If I wanted it ,he didn’t . If he wanted it ,I had to type of relationship. I think the last 7 to 10 years I must of tried to leave him 2/3 times every year. Only to be stoked , blamed , manipulated until I was completely exhausted and just went back. Groveling t his feel and taking the blame for everything that ever happened between us. Even thing he would make up or embellish and if I ueationed it ,I was wrong and what he said happened. He would always use the kids sting he will take them and I’d never see them to make me feel defeated and accept whatever he said I did or was. Then he’s at how he never wanted them or me for that matter like I was his charity case.finally I was able to stay gone , my children and I ended up at a domestic violence shelter after he put his hands on me and tried to tell the police he never touched me it was all made up and I did it all to him. When he had no marks why so ever. We were there 6 mths. And learned lot with group sessions nd individual counseling. Things I though I hid from my children were never hidden
.they saw nd experienced it all . So don’t believe that this is what will stay ur life forever. Ur not stuck. Neither are the children . They can eventually make their own decisions and if the see how strong their mom is they will make the right one. I will keep u in my thoughts and prayers uve got this. God only makes us ender why we can handle and some old us are bada$$ people.


Toxic is another word for sociopathic…get out why you still have the chance and cut the sociopath out of your life!


My toxic ex uses everything I say against me and says and does very cruel things. He never apologizes or takes responsibility for his abuse. He says if I don’t like it don’t talk to him? Now, he is doing nice things for my daughter and contacting her behind my back which is putting a wedge between my daughter and me. She doesn’t think there is anything wrong with it but I know what he’s doing. My toxic ex won’t respond to any of my messages regarding my daughter. I have told him whatever correspondence he has it can go through me and have blocked his number from her cell phone. They text each other 8 times yesterday? All because he got her concert tickets.


Oh I really feel for you – this is such a difficult situation. The most important thing above everything is to keep your relationship with your daughter intact. Whatever you think of your ex, he’s your daughter’s dad and the only one she has. Kids will always want to see the best in their parents because they are a part of them. It’s very easy for kids to think that if their parent is bad, perhaps a part of them is bad too. Of course, as adults we know it doesn’t work like that understandably, kids just want to see their parents in the best light they can. The more difficult you make it for her to make contact with him, the more you might be encouraging her to contact him behind your back – and you don’t want that. It seems to be that way with people generally – the more we push against someone, the harder they push back against us. If he’s not doing any harm to her – if he’s being a loving, responsible dad, perhaps the best thing you can do for your relationship with your daughter might be to let her know that it’s okay and that she can talk to you about it. Of course, this depends on what he’s like with her and whether or not the relationship is a loving, healthy one. I know this won’t be easy but it’s the capacity to do the hard stuff for the sake of their kids that makes parents to amazing. Again, this all depends on whether or not his relationship with her is a positive one. In the meantime, I know it’s so difficult to watch but it’s important that you’re the steady, reliable, available, loving parent. You also don’t want to do anything that will shut down the communication between you and her – she needs you. Try and see her relationship with him as separate to his relationship with you. I expect he is a very different man with her to the one he is with you. I know this isn’t an easy situation. Hold tight though, kids see things for what they are eventually. Your daughter is very lucky to have you.


That is super gross that he is manipulating you via your daughter. It tells you everything you need to know about getting him out of your life. He is using your daughter to get at you. So don’t discuss too much frustration at your daughter because that is the game he is playing. Enjoy the silence and stay close with your daughter but minimize conversation about that guy.


After reading this and thinking for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that this article could actually go the other way as well. For those who can’t grasp the fact that they might actually belong on the other side.
I think that everyone has a little of each in them, and when they deny it they are only lying to themselves.


I absolutely agree – we can all do a little bit of all of them. It’s a question of degree, intent, and what you do when you realise you’ve overstepped the mark with someone. I think we all exist on a spectrum – it comes with being human!


I am really having a hard time with my daughter-in-law that is continually trying to gain the upper hand with me. Her behavior is “crazy-making” and I feel as if I’m going in circles. She attacks me when my son isn’t around making hurtful comments. Then I cry or try to defend myself.

The worse part is that she is pulling my son away. I understand that she is first in his life. It was much easier when they lived away.


Make sure to record every nasty thing on your phone or other device. Never ever respond the way she wants you to. It’s common for sons to take their wives side but at least you’ll have a record of her psychological bullying and abuse if you get fed up and want them out. It’ll be hurtful, but you must look after yourself. Their life has started and they’ll find a place so don’t ever feel guilty.


My ex-sister in law did this. She isolated my brother by telling him lies about me and my sister. She tried to isolate him from my Mom, but there was a fierce bond between my mom and brother. When my niece was born, she made a joking comment about her “cone” head, so later I repeated this comment joking to my sister. My ex SIL told my brother about it, without mentioning she had said it first, and acted all offended. She did this several times to make us the bad guy. It’s so manipulative and narcissistic. Controlling behavior isolates you from your friends and family so that the only input into your thoughts and actions are from your spouse.


Also, they ignore you when you talk about your boundaries or even preferences. For example, I have a toxic family member and no matter how many times I tell her I go to bed early, she will only call me late. Even if I text her telling her not to call late. The reason she calls late is because it’s better for HER. She prefers talking to me after her husband goes to bed. She completely refuses to acknowledge that it’s bad for me and only cares that it’s what she likes. Also, she shuts down when I talk about problems in my life. She offers very very little in the form of support.


Agreed! Thing is if you stick around them long enough, you will start to behave in the same manner to try to show them how they are treating you. In doing this, you cross the line. Best to steer clear of trying to defend yourself. Move away from the situation by simply stating that you disagree, or that you are not seeing it from the same perspective and you don’t care to argue with them.


Wow, this was written about my daughter. As a matter of fact she is keeping my 3yr old granddaughter from me for the 3rd time in 3 yrs. All I did was ask about Easter this year. That was it. She disowned me, and is now keeping my little one from me, who for the past 3 yrs has stayed with papa and I for 4-5 days. She loves it here. When she was a baby she use to cry and scream when it was time to go home!! If she does not let me see her this easter I’m going for grandparents rights in CA. I have 14,000 pics of her own room at Grammy and papas house.

I am done putting up with her lies and manipulations. She will not use my little one as a pawn!!


Oh no I’m sorry you’re going through this. I hope you are able to find a way through and that there comes to be some sort of resolution for everyone.

Dewayne H

Yes with me it’s my sister she’s a toxic person her way or no way and yells and screaming at me over nothing right now she’s trying to steal mom and dad’s house my parents died and she says there house is now hers and she can thow me out at her will anytime she feels like it she’s the biggest tryrant queen bitch I’ve ever had the displeasures of meeting all the niebors can hear her yelling and screaming at me as I walk down the street tryieng to defuse the situation and she follows me yelling and screaming tomorrow I’m calling a lawyer and going to to find out what my rights are about my Mom and Dad home that she says it’s now hers as I read this article and thought about it it all sounds like it was written just for her


omg I have a sister who is toxic. She is the baby and even after 3 marriages and 4 children she still talks like a baby to my parents to get her own way. She lies manipulates, steels from my parents screams at them and curses. She talks bad behind my back makes up horrible things and they kind of believe her. She is a disgrace but my parents have always given her money, excuses they pretend she is bi polar but she is not, they are enablers, she breaks the law, and when my mom passed she signed my moms checks and took her bonds and cashed it all in.. tons of things disappeared (she sold them) and my dad said I will not throw her out and do not call the police shes family. Well she is still out there making up stories about all of us, goes from one boyfriend to another and my dad still favoring her.. he has a care taker, I was confronted by her about the stories this sicko sister told her making everyone look bad and herself like the victim. I want to walk away, I have nothing to do with her unless shes at my dads when i visit i am cordial but I think she should be held accountable for her actions.


How can I stop my husband brother I don’t allow him to ever enter my house, he hurts my fillings and curse on me in front of my husband but husband say nothing him Instead brother in law tells me to leave the house with curse

Annetta w

This reminds me of a co-worker ,She just quit ,she blamed covid-19. It was the happiest day if my life .I learned a lot from you Sandy or Sandra .Thank You !!!

lindy petts

Never see it as ‘their’ problem. Always see it as yours when it comes to children. That has helped me a lot


Argh! I’m not so sure about all of this.

I think labelling people is never a good approach (i.e. this person is “toxic”). By labelling the other person as the “problem” you become a poor, helpless victim. This position robs you of an opportunity to explore your own role in the relationship, however small it might be. Your role might be that you didn’t maintain healthy boundaries because you seek validation from others. Or your role might be that you didn’t have the courage to say “no” when they asked you to bring the dinner to their dinner party. Exploring your own role gives you some clues about what personal growth you can work on.

A close friend recently told me I was “cold” and “selfish”. I’m resisting the urge to label her as mean or toxic. It’s tempting (and probably easier) to do that but I know that doesn’t help me or our relationship. Instead I’m trying to see my role in the situation. If I cast my mind back, I felt pressured to do something she was excited about so I avoided phone calls and delayed making a decision. So, I can see I have some work to do around speaking up for myself and reducing my fear of upsetting people. Also, I’m trying to understand, from her perspective, how she came to these conclusions. Perhaps by doing this, I exposed some sort of need or vulnerability in her and she was trying to protect herself? Or is it the projection thing you mention in the article? I’m not sure. But I’m thinking about it. I’m trying not to label her and victimise myself. I may decide to end the friendship, but it won’t be because she’s a “toxic person”, it will be because she’s a person…whose definition of friendship is different to mine.

Also I couldn’t see anything about having compassion for “toxic” people. If people are behaving in the ways described above, perhaps it gives some clues about the pain within them (we all have pain and wounds that sometimes control how we behave in the world). Boundaries in relationships are essential. Boundaries with compassion are ideal. I think the world needs more compassion less labelling.


First of all, it’s important to point out that everybody gets it wrong sometimes. We are all guilty of doing any or all of these 12 things some of the time. Doing them now and then doesn’t make us toxic – it makes us human. What makes people toxic is the degree and the regularity of what they do, coupled with an absence of insight, remorse or concern for their impact on people. If you are looking at your behaviour and engaging in some self-reflection, high chances are that you’re not toxic, but that perhaps you just got something wrong. That’s okay. We’re all allowed to do that sometimes. In fact, it’s essential – it’s how we learn.

Secondly, sometimes the other person is the problem – and that doesn’t make you a victim. Toxic people generally land in relationships with people who are constantly assessing and adjusting their own behaviour to make the relationship better – constantly. If there was a time you didn’t return phone calls because you weren’t ready to share your friend’s excitement – that doesn’t make you toxic – not at all! Even if you were to do it regularly that doesn’t make you toxic. BUT – if you do most things on the list most of the time, as well as other behaviours that serve to constantly undermine the friendship, then that may be headed to the toxic end of the spectrum. I would challenge anyone to claim they haven’t done at least a few things on the least at least a few times before. We’re human and we’re allowed to get it wrong sometimes!

Being in a relationship – be it family, friends or the people we fall in love with – always involves letting our guard come down little by little. It involves being open and vulnerable to the other person. We are open to their love, their trust, their respect, their appreciation, their wisdom. We are also vulnerable to their potential to hurt us. We all have our scars and our bruises and we have to hope that the people we have chosen to be close to will treat our scars and bruises with love, dignity and respect. We have to hope we’ve chosen well and that the person we are with will not exploit our opening up to them but of course, we can’t always tell straight away. Toxic people take that opening up and vulnerability and they do damage. They make the scars deeper and the bruises darker and they just don’t care. We are all fighting our own battles. Nobody’s battle gives them the right to damage, humiliate, shame or hurt another person over and over.

Having said all of this, I deeply respect your opinions. The are wise, insightful and compassionate. Thank you for taking the time to share them.


I strongly agree with you, sing sing. Reading many of the comments here, there seems to be an overwhelming tendency for people to see themselves as the victim in their relationships with others. I don’t believe that’s an accurate or healthy perspective in general.

We are all flawed and have a natural bias that allows us to see more clearly where others have wronged us but not necessarily where we have been wrong. It’s far too easy to label the other person as The Problem, and I suspect ‘toxic’ people are highly prone to labeling others so.

I do believe it’s critically important to walk away from people who clearly do not have your best interests at heart–after you’ve done your best to be sure that *you* have not been the one creating the tensions in the relationship. There are certainly plenty of people out there who will lie, manipulate, and take advantage of others to the extent possible. Healthy boundaries are necessary for every relationship.

However, if you find yourself repeatedly in relationships with so-called toxic people, you might want to remember that the one common factor in all those relationships is you.

Hey Sigmund

True for toxic friendships or relationships where the cost of leaving is less than the cost of staying, but sometimes the toxic person is a parent, a sibling, a family member, a step-child, or an ex-spouse with whom the relationship has to be maintained on some level because of shared parenting). In these cases, it’s not always easy or possible to walk away from a toxic relationship because the cost may be too high, but I agree with you completely that if there is a continuing pattern with intimate relationships or friendships, it’s time to look at your own expectations, and the reason you’re drawn to these type of people. It really depends on the nature of the relationship and the cost involved in leaving. I understand the point you’re making – thank you for sharing it and for keeping the conversation going.


Thank you for this article. I am married to a toxic person. She constantly blames me for everything and puts me down. I in turn feel depressed and am constantly, to no avail, trying to please her. Recently, I have tried to not fall into her traps. I try not to argue and don’t respond to her attacks. She now says, “You’ve become very cold and withdrawn.” It doesn’t help that I am a person that needs approval and doesn’t get it. I don’t want to end our marriage because it would hurt us both with family and financially. I still love her despite all of this. I certainly have my faults, but I certainly don’t believe I am as bad as she portrays that I am.


I am trying to post a comment on this thread, not leave a reply.

so here goes.

I have a very toxic relationship with my ex-husband.
I REALLY NEED TO GET OVER IT, or at the very least learn an effective way to control it, instead of it controlling me.
We have two children together, and have been divorced for over 10 years.

his nickname is DQ for Drama Queen. He is a full fledged narcissist, contradicts himself, bullies, manipulates. Undermines my authority, involves the kids in adult situations, and then when they ask questions he says its none of their business.

I could give many more details if you want to write a book LOL or an article.

kind regards


I have a better idea. No pressure, totally up to you, but why don’t you write the article. I’m starting a new section, ‘And Talking About It’ – the blurb is under the talk and it’s for people to write about their experiences so people can come along and not feel so alone if they’re going through the same thing. Just an idea!


My daughter-in-law hates us but she has the children we want to see. We live a day’s drive from them. We are 86 and don’t want to drive 800 miles or fly and be told to stay away. It’s too late to fix this as she is too toxic to talk to. Our son doesn’t want to upset her so says nothing. We have no idea what to do. Any suggestions?


This is me, not all of it but most of it. I have made my Wife’s life difficult and I don’t want to be this person.

To answer some of the comments above, toxic people don’t know they are doing it and may well be devastated that they are making other people feel that way. If it’s your boss then I can’t advise you because I’ve been let go from jobs the last 2 Christmas’s. If it’s your spouse, then all I can say is that it’s about communications people. I don’t believe anyone wants to make anyone else feel like poop.

I want to change, I will change and I will not be a toxic person!


It takes strength to be able to own your part in contributing to the pain in someone else’s life. It’s so encouraging to hear that you have gained this level of self-insight. One of the things that makes toxic people so toxic is they just don’t get to this point. Communication becomes manipulative or non-existent, and they are masterful forming relationships with people who will always want the best for the people they love, so will bend and twist for the sake of the relationship. Meanwhile, the toxic person contributes nothing. The fact that can see what you’ve done that has hurt your wife and that you want to change it is enormous and I can hear how open you are to trying to make things right. I know it sounds cliche, but that’s the hardest step. The second hardest step is staying changed – there might be the occasional two steps forward one step back. Sometimes there might be three steps back. The main this is you keep moving forward and not be discouraged by the times you fall a little. I know you can change. I know you can do this.

Jo Ann Clark

Thank you so much for this article. I have had several toxic relationships, people who mistake kindness for weakness. The most current toxic relationship is a friend who I was close to, but he wanted to become more than friends and I am married. So when I turned him down, his ego got stepped on and he started becoming manipulative, making me feel guilty over my decisions, etc. I started to question my own better judgement. I decided today (actually before I even read the article) that there really is no room for this person in my life. He is toxic, plays the games, one day he’s talkative and seems fine, the next time he makes “digs” that he knows will hurt my feelings. I’ve had enough. Why keep going back and trying to make this friendship work. Friendships should be natural and easy ( for the most part) and when they become more trouble than they are worth, then it’s time to cut ties. I will continue to pray for him, because God requires us to love all people, enemies included. I wish him well. Bless you for the article, it was extremely helpful!


I’m so pleased the information found its way to you. You’re right. Too often people mistake kindness for weakness, but the kindest people I know have been some of the strongest. You’ve shown real strength in your relationship with your friend. It’s not easy though is it. You have wonderful insight, so let that continue to strengthen you. You’ve done the right thing. Thank you for sharing this. You never know else who will get strength from your story.

Cathleen R

Thank you for this article. It is very helpful. It breaks my heart to say I have a toxic daughter-in-law and I am at a loss on how to deal with her. As I learn from articles such as this one I think I will be better equipped to weather the storm, and to be there for my son and two granddaughters if they should need me.


Some toxic people you can’t walk away from but hopefully understanding what they do helps to, as you say, ‘weather the storm’ (such a great description!). The most important thing is not to say anything bad about your daughter in law in front of them (even if what you are saying is true!). One of the way toxic people do so much damage is by dividing people by pitting one against the other. You don’t want to give her any reason to say to your son ‘look what your mother is doing to me. She’s always hated me …’ You can imagine how it would look. Also, if you say negative things to them about her it runs the risk of them feeling like they can’t talk to you about her because of the ‘I told you so,’ factor. She will always be the mum to your granddaughter and unfortunately, you can’t do anything about that but you can be their greatest protector. It sounds like you already are. They are very lucky to have you.


I am going through this after a friendship at home. I did everything for him. He wasn’t nice. Disappeared. Caught in lies no communication for two months. Left me the day after mini stroke. “Everyone has ministrokes” I paid everything. He didn’t work. I paid his medical. I paid for his DUI treatment through medical, supported him for almost three years.

Now its been three months and he just up and left and moved in with I suspect with another younger girl. I can’t believe I didn’t see all the signs. My friends and family saw. He would get upset, turn questions around. I was so in love and took so much from him. He was mean, rude and I took it so desperate. I know I am better off but somehow I miss him.

Why I don’t know. I see a pattern. He is a player. Never wanted a relationship. ” do you ever think I would change my mind” that hurt! Never said he loved me! Ran him everywhere! Did so much so he could go to school. Most of facebook is all women. Flirts. I guess I did think he would change his mind. I went to talk about my first ministroke to him he asked whats wrong with you instead of calling 911. The next hit day after Christmas and he left. Never are you ok. He only used to say get healthy because I had diabetic ulcer on foot, diabetes and fibromyalgia which he didn’t believe. He was selfish it was all about him and his needs.

Totally spoiled. I am totally better without him.

Now at work if thats not enough I went back to work after being off on medical and work environment is toxic and I am singled out. By boss and toxic coworkers praying to get out. Job interview next week.
Trying remain positive.
Thank you for this article!!!!
It was perfect timing. I am working on healing and building my self esteem!


I’m so pleased this article found its way to you. You’ve have been with someone you were way too good for. You are so much better without him! There’s a pattern and it won’t change. Take the time you need to learn from this relationship so no-one like him comes near you again. Think about what drew you to him? What stopped you leaving sooner? What was it that kept you there, even though that voice inside you was telling to run? Did you hear that voice inside you? Or was it too quiet? Try and understand as much about your relationship as you can so the same things don’t repeat in the next relate . If any there are lessons that remain are unresolved the risk is that you will be drawn. Leave him so far behind you. Then thank him. It’s because of his cruelty that you are about learn more about yourself than ever and grow into someone phenomenal.


Thanks for your reply, I hadn’t thought of it from that angle, but it really makes a lot of sense…I could just see my narcissistic ex husband and my father using NPD diagnosis as an excuse if either were willing to admit it to themselves.

I was led to your site by a friend who linked to your blog on speaking to children about anxiety and that was the best post I’ve seen on anxiety to date. I don’t have kids but I read it anyway and I’ve been enjoying your other posts too. Thank you for putting so much thought into your writing and for taking the time to reply to every single comment you get!


Avoid these people at all cost. If you can spot them before the damage is done – that’s the tricky part! I WAS desensitized to these people, but after having a narcissist mother and husband, I’m finally starting to get it. It’s a battle I’ll be fighting for a long time I know, but I AM NOW FIGHTING!


My husband is a narcissist who needs constant praise, all the time. He owns his own business, doesn’t work too much, but is never home. He needs to be out talking at people, ‘look at me!’, all day long. It’s sickening. He’s mean, loud, aggressive, everything’s my fault. If I have a different opinion than him he gets hostile. I’m left alone most days and nights while he’s “busy” running a business. He is literally insane. Cannot have a conversation with him that makes any sense at all, unless I just listen to his incessant rambling


This sounds like an awful situation to be in. You’re so unhappy and I imagine it feels very lonely too. I expect you have good reasons for staying. It’s not always easy to leave. Hopefully you’ve read through the comments and are able to realise you’re not alone. So many people going through the same thing. I’m so sorry you’re in this situation.


Thank you for this article. It very clearly sets forth the actions of personality disordered people and I’ll be forwarding it to family with the hopes of waking them up to the behaviour of the narcissists in the family.

I do have just one question, I was wondering why you’ve labeled these people as merely “toxic” when those who have the unfortunate pleasure of having personality disordered family and friends have been keen to note in the comments that they have narcissistic or histrionic family members. For those who don’t know about these cluster B disorders, they will only search the internet for “toxic people” and net some very vague results whereas by calling a spade a spade (calling a narcissist a person with narcissist personality disorder) you will arm your readers with the key words to search the internet and book stores for the wealth of information that is out there on personality disorders. They will learn that the reason these people don’t change by leaning from their mistakes is because a “personality” cannot be changed.

My experience in marrying a narcissist led me to therapy where I learned my parents are narcissists, my sister is histrionic and I’m recovering from depression. It took plenty of research for me to learn what was what, and knowing the key words to search for this topic that was so new to me was extremely helpful.

Thank you for your clarity on the subject, I hope my family will be receptive to reading it. And I do hope you’ll write a follow up on cluster B disorders, particularly narcissistic personality disorder, as the comments are flooded with people who have suffered the fate of having one in their lives.


You’re welcome! In relation to your question, personality disorders are a serious diagnosis and I would be reluctant to encourage anyone to make that sort of diagnosis for themselves or of anyone else through a Google search. If people already know what they’re dealing with – and I can see the people who have used the terms clearly do, as you do – then those people (and you) don’t need to hear it from me. What’s important is being able to respond to the symptoms and toxic covers all of them. I’ve also seen people with personality disorders use the label to excuse their destructive behaviour. ‘It’s not my fault because I’m a narcissist.’ That sort of thing. I don’t buy it. It’s toxic, it poisons and it destroys and they can call it want they want, there is no excuse. I’d prefer not to give them one. I can see what you mean when you say it helps to have a label to research to know what you’re dealing with, and I’m all for anything that can help the people who have been damaged by others. I suppose I’ve just seen too many times where people have wrongly labelled people and that has it’s own consequences. I’ve also seen too any times where people with PDs use their label to excuse their behaviour. You make a really valid point though and I’m grateful you took the time to state it. You have a lot of insight and I’m sure your comment will help a lot of people. Thank you!

lynn dillon

Love the article. Seen some people I have known in the past and also seen some of myself. Soul searching is a never ending process.


Oh you are so right! I know what you mean about soul searching being never ending. Everybody does all of the toxic behaviours some of the time. Nobody’s perfect and we’re all allowed to make m Being toxic is a question of degree and regularity. The fact that you have insight and a readiness to soul-search, means that you will never be toxic. You might have ‘toxic days’ – we all have them – but you won’t be a ‘toxic person’. Thank you for taking the time to make contact.


Thank you. I needed to see this today. My narcissistic and very toxic husband left 5 months ago for a much younger woman. He also left behind 3 teenagers, a house in disrepair, incredible debts and much emotional debris.

I spent many years walking on eggshells trying to make him happy and keep everything ok. He abused my good nature and took advantage of me at every turn. He is a master manipulator… After our separation 3 years ago when I first was confronted with his affair, he lied and tried to keep conning me. I let him come home after he was evicted from his apartment, got his car repossessed and drank so much that he was writing bad checks and pawning silver and his wedding ring!

He promised to change and made me believe that everything but him was to blame for his downfall. I believed in my vows and tried to help him overcome his issues. For better or worse, he was my husband and father of our kids. He paid me back with lies, cheating, fraudulently opening a credit card in my name and then kissing me good bye on a Wednesday talking about what we should have for supper and never came home again.

I have to pay for the divorce and am selling the house so we don’t get foreclosed on. He has made some minimal support payments and sees his kids maybe for a meal a couple times a month. That’s it. Never helps in any way with what he left behind or any parental duties. Never asks how I’m doing. Just all about him and his feelings he can’t change now, he says.

The crazy thing is that we have been friends since we were in high school and I still love him or at least love who he was once. That guy is dead and gone and now the pirate has taken him over it is so sad and I am distraught by the loss of our family. A lot was caused by alcohol and by his selfishness. Like the wolf story.

There are two wolves, the good one and bad one and whichever one you feed is the one that stays. I see a lot of what I felt around him in your article. He was good at keeping me off balance and convincing me that I was crazy or over sensitive or incapable of handling adversity. He tormented me and I am fighting to put it all behind me. I lost a lot of my self worth and self confidence. He has caused so much damage to me, to my kids and to my family who tried to help him. It is scary. Thanks for letting me vent!


You’re so right – it’s frightening how quickly toxic people can work their way into the hearts and lives of good people. They are so good at what they do and they pick their targets well – reasonable, honest, kind, generous people. You’ve been through an awful time and now thankfully you’re free. Your comment about the person you love being the man he used to be is so insightful. You loved him once – of course there are going to be things about him that are harder to let go of, but when you feel bad more often than you feel good – well there’s your answer. You’ve done the right thing and you’re putting in a heroic effort to get you and your girls through this. I have enormous respect for you and any woman who can do that. AND if you can’t vent here on Hey Sigmund – well where can you do it. Come back and vent any time! Thank you so much for sharing your story. There will be so many women with stories like this who will relate and it will mean a lot to them to know that they aren’t alone.


Hi Ginny, I so much hear what you are saying and want to let you know you aren’t alone. I wonder why they can actually get away with being so mean, and why the heck do we still think we love them and can help them? And why do we try so hard for such a thankless situation. And I still find myself crying and missing him so much, when I know he has never ever been there for me emotionally at all. And when I talk to him, try to get him to open up, his face just looks at me with big stupid puppy dog eyes, and when you are done, they just get up and walk out. Or mostly, they don’t even wait for you to finish, you’ll still be talking as the door shuts. I’ve caught myself many times waiting til he comes back in, but he doesn’t. When my Mom died, I was naturally just destroyed, and one time I started crying, and he go up and came over to me, put his arm on my shoulder for maybe two seconds, and that was it forever. He lost his Mom and I never saw him shed a tear, then he lost his brother, and I went to the hospital and sat with his brothers wife until she finally gave in and shut off life support. And they were so close, my husband and him. Not a tear tht time either. And he left on a job the day of his funeral. Didn’t even consider going. Why is it so hard to let go of these guys? I think a lot of it is because nothing seems to make sense, one day they say they love you, the next, they say they never did and they want out. And they don’t even understand why we are sitting there just destroyed, there is no emotion, no remorse, nothing, just like turning off a lightbulb, it means nothing..we mean nothing when they are done with us, and it’s the most difficult thing in the world to feel like you mean nothing to the most important person in your world. The one person you never thought could hurt you so badly, and they don’t even feel sorrow, nor sorry. i don’t know if i will ever be able to trust anyone very much anymore, i’m terrified of trying, my judgement is so bad. Anyway, you are not alone in your hurt and suffering…Pam


Do the toxic ones know who they are, and is there any way to address them for change. You have described my spouse to a T and I am at the end of my wits to make her happy. Thank you for the article and insight. Very helpful.


The difference between toxic people and the rest of us is that when the rest of us realise we’re hurting someone unnecessarily, we tweak our behaviour. Toxic people don’t. I believe that anyone can change, but they have to realise the need for change and be willing to change. You can’t change someone who doesn’t think there’s a problem. It’s so impossibly hard when you’re in a relationship with a toxic person because until they’re ready to listen, the relationship is stuck. I’ve been really surprised at the response to this article. There are so many people struggling with toxic relationships. Will do more posts on this in the future. It’s great that you have the insight. Thank you so much for making contact.


Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. You have just made me realize that it’s happening to me. Now with your help I’m going to sort this out. Thanks again .


You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased this has been able to help you. I love it when people find their strength and it sounds like you’ve certainly found yours. Thank you for making contact with me.


I am currently on a bus to get away from a toxic relationship. It started as emotional manipulation and started getting physical, so I left him. Thank the Lord I was strong enough to do it.


I’ve got goosebumps reading this. It’s not easy leaving a relationship but you’ve done it. Keep moving forward. You’re amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. You never know who will read this and also be inspired by your strength and courage. Thank you!


It’s to bad that I have to watch a good friend of mine for the last 30 years get mixed up with someone like that! She’s got him believing that it’s love!! I’ve tried to make him see it’s not! He won’t listen and comes to her defense. It’s almost like a domestic violence thing with out the beatings and he’s the victim.

How do I get him out of this mess? It’s been 5 years now. It only gets worse for him every year! He had lots of friends and a job he loved and now he’s lost everyone but me! I am no match for her toxic manipulating personality> I’m barely hanging in there. He does screw me over to make her happy. I’m the last thing she hasn’t been able to cut him off from. But, I’m almost giving up hope. We are like brother and sister, but his girlfriend has thrown a lot of wedges between us over time.

Time is running out. He used to be a wonderful man who loved life, people and family and friends. Now he’s just angry and judgemental and hates everything. But I believe there’s still a little piece left of him to work with. A very small window of hope. By the way, she’s turned him into a liar and he’ll tell you he’ll do something and then a fight will break out between them and he won’t keep his word. He always kept his word before she came along.

There’s got to be someone in this world smarter than her!! Can anyone help me? To help him, get out of that hell hole life he’s in? He’s 10 years older than she is, but she has literally turned him gray and into an old man and he’s only 53! I worry what she will do to him next. It’s like he’s brain washed, like a cult would do. I don’t know how to deprogram him. I just don’t have the capabilities and no money to try. If someone has step by step instructions for what to do, I’d be greatful to you, I just want my good friend back. He was a true loving soul, good to everyone. He’s a victim and can’t see it!!!

Thank you for reading this!
Sincerely, Nikki


Hi Nikki, First – you’re friend is so lucky to have you. You sound like an incredible friend. It’s awful watching people you love fall apart. One of the mistakes people make when someone they care about is in a bad relationship is that try to talk those people out of the bad relationships. It seems like the obvious thing to do, but what it can often do is inadvertently drive those people (your friend) to prove you wrong and push them further into the bad relationship. Nobody wants to feel like a fool, and if people think that’s what their friends are thinking, they will often work very hard to disprove that – which is pretty understandable. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep loving your friend hard. Pushing against his relationship might drive him to push back harder. I know it’s counter-intuitive but when you judge his partner, your friendship will likely feel it as judgement against him. It’s absolutely not your fault – I’ve done it myself and like I said, it’s the obvious thing to do. But it doesn’t always work. If your friend asks for your honesty then of course, give it. Otherwise, be as supportive and as non-judgemental of the relationship as you can. I know how hard this is but if what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to try something different. The issue you’ve raised is an important one and I can see a bit of a theme in the comments. I’m going to do a post on it so stay tuned. Thank you so much for making contact with me and for sharing your story. You would be surprised how many people are in the same situation!

Nancy H

I am really impressed by your gentle and helpful replies to the comments you have received to your informative article.

I do sometimes like to read the comments to articles, just being curious, or if I found the article interesting, and so often, the writer never answers the comments.

You, however, seem to answer most or all, even ones that I, myself, thought were just misguided or irrelevant. You showed me that even those deserved your consideration and thoughtful reply.

Just wanted to say you made me feel humble and you inspired me to be less critical of others, because under all the ranting and poor grammar is perhaps an individual who is hurting and needs a hand to get through a tough time.

Kudos to you and thank you for being a great role model.


I was raised by a psychotic malignant narcissist for 18 yrs. I have also just put the pieces together that my sister in law is also a psychotic malignant narcissist with histrionic tendencies. (Neither have been diagnosed because *they* don’t have a problem. I do… *ahem* … )

My stepfather is out of my life, but after 15 more years with my sister in law and her latest round of shenanigans, I was triggered really badly and I am now seeing a therapist. She has diagnosed me with Complex PTSD due to the years of abuse as a child, and now this person as a constant trigger. She honestly “gets off” on causing pain and chaos, endangering people’s lives and stirring the pot. She throws emotional grenades into the mix of the family and then stands back and says, “wasn’t me…”

She has, once again, caused major upheaval in the family, getting all of the adult siblings involved and even her teenage daughter to help her with her pity party. The saddest part about all of it is the way she uses her children as pawns within the family (and with her ex husband) and then tells us that we are cruel to her kids. She has convinced the entire family to hate me because I am “stealing” her brother from them. Um. He just doesn’t think that EVERY. SINGLE. GATHERING. needs to be drunk-fest 2015, and he certainly doesn’t want to act like that in front of all of the teenage kids in our family. We have 2 teenagers and a pre-teen. And we choose NOT to drink with our kids.

I’m just heart broken that someone could hate me so viciously (after going thru 18 yrs of that kind of hatred from my step-dad). I am a born again Christian, which of course is their primary way of attacking me. Apparently I am supposed to perfect because of my faith, and I apparently want everyone to believe that I am perfect.. *ahem*. Actually- what I really want is HONESTY, TRANSPARENCY, KINDNESS, Actual LOVE- ya know- the kind where you’re nice to your family? I’m asking for all of us to come together and discuss the TRUTH. No more lies. No more projecting. You can’t spend 15 yrs talking bad about someone behind their back and then simultaneously claim to be all about family. And all of the other family members just stand there and let her talk that way. And they defend her and say all she wants is for all of us to just get along. If she really doesn’t like me, THEN JUST SAY SO! I can handle it! But she gets more pleasure from attacking me, slandering me, dividing the family and then pointing at me and saying I’m the one dividing the family. I’m sorry for the venting but I’ve spent a lot of years in the dark and confused, and now its all pouring out. I do want to share a few titles of books that I have read lately that I have found tremendously helpful :

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron PhD

Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward PhD

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick

Setting Boundaries with Difficult People by Allison Bottke

Toxic In-Laws by Susan Forward PhD

I hope these titles help someone else like they did me. Thank you for your blog, its very helpful and a great resource.


You have so much insight. What you’ve been through has clearly made you tougher, braver, clearer and more insightful. I honestly believe that people are more beautiful for the breaks. We all have them. Your ‘wants’ are completely reasonable and you deserve to have people in your life who can be honest, loving, transparent and kind. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your story and the books that have helped you. There are some great titles here. The response to this post has been enormous – there are so many people struggling with toxic people in their lives. Toxic people will only ever go for kind, reasonable, generous ones. I LOVE hearing when people have broken away. You’re amazing. Thank you so much for making contact with me.


Love this article. I thought my life was HELL when it was just my boyfriend living with me but it has quadrupled since my brother (46) moved in on Feb. 1st. My mom died 3 years ago this past Sunday, which was Father’s day and since I’ve been without my dad for 25 years now, I’m basically an adult orphan now taking care of my 46 year old mentally ill brother who has been ravaged by drug abuse for decades but insists he’s cured and believes that he can still use drugs occasionally and just walk away…NOT! And he still acts like a teenager and contributes nothing to help with household expenses. Actually, I don’t even have the mental strength/clarity to type what it would take to get anywhere close to describing the torture I deal with every single day of my life so I’m going to end this now cuz I’m feeling sick just thinking about my situation. Hopefully, in time, I’ll be able to articulate this traumatic experience into words but for now I just need to focus on finding a way to end it first. Good luck to everyone else who may be in a similar situation. I feel your pain. Living with people with this degree of insanity and toxicity is nothing short of psychological torture and they should be arrested for that and also for attempted murder of the soul. I feel like a helpless, crazy fool and am literally a prisoner in my own home right now but I know I’ll be okay and things will work out somehow. I might be totally losing my shit at the moment but I’m way too resilient to not get it back and I will not be broken by this nonsense. That’s just not an option. I just wish I had a support system in place to help speed up the process.


😚❤ thanks i;’m trying to avoid my brother ’cause he thought the worst thing about me whaich I hated the most in the most misogynistic way.. I hate him to death.. It, s hard to face betrayal


I just wanna bring 2 things to your attention.
When I first started discovering about narcissism, my own husband was the source, I sounded just like you. Constantly trying to show how THEY were so awful and exactly why! I was beyond consolable by all the awful things he said about me and called me.
I was in my third therapist office crying and explaining this to her and she stopped me dead in my tracks. She then pointed to a red chair in the corner and she said Cheryl that chair is black and I looked at her and I said it’s red and she screamed a little louder “that chair is black”, and I just looked at her and then she stood up and pounded on the desk and pointed at it and screamed “THAT CHAIR IS BLACK!!!”. I sat there stunned. She then sat down and said no matter how many ways or how loud I yell at that red chair will never be black.
Do you understand? It really doesn’t matter what they say or do, it doesn’t matter what they are trying to convince others about you. It never will be the truth. So, let it go. If anyone who knows you either sides with her or even believes her, she has done you a favor because you don’t need anyone in your life that you can’t count on.
Next, I remember sitting in one therapist office with the same kind of rant you have just posted, this time about my brother. I had told her in the beginning that I didn’t care about anyone in my narcissistic family. After I was done with my rant she looked at me and said ” you know, for somebody who says she doesn’t care about them, you sure give their opinions allot of credit.”
Oh. My. God. She could have hit me between the eyes with a shotgun! It was TRUE!! I was giving their opinions of me meaning! After that, she told me ” you know, you don’t have to answer their phone calls, you don’t even need to listen to their messages. You don’t have to defend yourself to them or anyone else because of them. Because if you do, you’ll be doing it forever”. She was right. After that I just quit any contact and any reaction. I even quit talking about them to other people and if anyone started to bring them up I stopped them right away.
Wow! Is live better now!
Good luck.


Please tell me what do I do to get them out of my life and put in their place!


Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for this. All you can do is recognise the behaviours and protect yourself from them as you can’t change people who don’t want to be changed. I wish I could be more helpful.

Sue F

I don’t think you can ever “put them in their place”…it’s just too exhausting! Strong boundaries, low contact and just walking away have worked for me. I bowl with a woman who is like this. I am polite and only talk about things like the weather and bowls…never anything personal. They seem to target the caring, sympathetic types but I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t do much with these people. Good luck!


Low contact is one of the most manipulatively malicious narcissistic sociopathic psychopaths there is.

The ‘no contact” rule is a silent treatment abuse disguised as ending abusive control when its really the victim getting abused more, for example.


No…Firstly she didn’t say “no contact,” she said “low contact”; and the goal is not to be manipulative or dish out the silent treatment, it’s self-protection. I learned the hard way not to wear my heart on my sleeve around people like this, else they win my trust only to use my confidences against me.


Low – or no contact – is essential when you are dealing with someone who thinks that the problem is everyone else except themselves. When they will not accept boundaries and blame you for everything, then you have the right to protect yourself.


Hi I love the education @ Life experiences
that you share with us all out here.You have helped me a lot. To try @ move forward even when dealing with controlling and narcissistic relationships that try to make us feel like were worthless.Especially when nothing ever gets resolved with these kind of people all we can do is pray for these people and pray for ourselves hopefully They move forward and learn something to thank you LP


Hi. Im currently 9 months in to a realationship with my boyfriend. I feel like nothing i do is enough. He will start a argument usually via text about the most petty things eg i took to long to answer a message. Its might have took me 20minutes or less. I dont argue i just apologise and tell him I’ll do better. But he just contiunes will tell my im taking him for a fool or worse to that effect. I find he can also seem quit hypocritical but alway find away round it be because of me. I do everything I can possibly do to make him happy and avoid these situations. I’ve tried saying very little I’ve tried justifying and explaining I’ve tried apologising over and over. I love him so much i just want us to be happy. I dont want to argue over silly thing. What is the best way of dealing with this. Thank you x


This may sound like a crazy way to get rid of them but, from LOTS of experience I can tell you it works!!
Become EXTREMELY BORING!! That’s right, Just act like there is absolutely nothing in your life worth talking about. Don’t tell them ANYTHING you hold deep inside, don’t talk about anything in your life. Keep everything superficial.
These vultures LOVE drama! And as long as there have the resources to create drama, that’s what they will do. Anytime you give the slightest reaction to anything they say or do, that’s ammunition for them. They are only concerned with getting a reaction or a rise out of you.
Just be a grey rock. No reaction, nothing great in your, let everything slide off your back.
I’ve been doing it for a year now and I feel so much better.


This is so true ..but the perfect way to get away from toxic ppl
I am doing the same .

Vas D.

The behaviors in this article describe my spouse of several decades. I have come to recognize them, but after so many years, I still cannot address them any better than pointing them out to her, which just starts a new round of recriminations. How do I get a toxic person to see the error of their ways and address their own issues, rather than projecting on me?


Toxic family members are harder to walk away from but well done to you for your insight and being able to see it for what it is. And it’s great that you’re married to a man who has your back! Thank you for taking the time to comment – I hope things settle down for you soon.


I have an acquaintance that doesn’t look at me while speaking one to one, but to the only other person talking with us.
What should I do?
They interupted our conversation to begin with?!


You just completely described the narcissists in my life. Sadly one is currently destroying a friendship group moving from person to person befriending them on a high scale and dropping them when it suits.I’m wise to the behaviour but others aren’t and sadly you can’t explain to them what is happening as you become the poisonous one. Thanks for a good read.


You’re very welcome. I’m sorry to hear that this is happening to you. It’s so good that you have the insight though and you’re right, people have to figure it out when they’re ready – which sooner or later they do. Toxic people are well-practiced at what they do and that’s what makes them so hard to wise up to. I hope things get better soon. Thanks so much for making contact.


OMG! This hit the nail on the head! My soon to be sister-in-law proceeded to tell me that I have changed him for the worse! Mind you this comes from a woman who is 55 and has been married 5X!
She also says…”she just wants her brother back”? Like what? Where did he go? I was floored and didn’t know how to react to any of what she was dishing out! I am a very bubbly, positive and outgoing person. I try to see the best out of every situation and every person, but this had to take the cake with me!


It’s so true ..I was getting confused as to what was happening since it was my own mom who is doing this ..
All that u have written suits the behaviour. I was thinking as to how to please her and get thing online ..but it seems not a easy way..

Thanks for writing..helped me to dentify what was wrong..I am just ignoring to maintain sanity

Maureen Gotimer

Some good points, but sometimes, ignoring tone of a conversation misses the point. Also, most of the most painful arguments in a relationship do come from past experiences and dealing only with the current situation makes you seem petty. The point of the difficulty is many times in the history or pattern rather than a single slight. Finally, what may seem irrelevant to one person may be a keynote to another.


Yes, your point about a pattern is so important. The reaction on one occasion can seem over the top but as it fits into an historic pattern it takes on a exactly that, a pattern of behaviour.

mary c charest

This article is painfully true. I had two toxic friends who tried to convince me that I was the toxic one — after reading this article I know I was not toxic — they were. It was all about them. Geeze.


Yes! Toxic people are experts when it comes to convincing reasonable people that they’re being unreasonable. When you know the signs, they’re easier to spot and it makes it harder for them to pull you under their spell. It’s great that you now have the insight. Thanks so much for making contact!


My fiance’s brother’s wife is so toxic, we both came to announce our engagement by doing so we spent a week, she has never met me before. Skipping back to when my some to be husband and I met he sent me his brother’s number to call him because I was living far from him. I called his brother instantly and we talked for about 1minute, it was quite an interesting conversation, 3days after he sent his wife’s number and told me to call her that was weird because”she’s your wife and she lives with you like you guys stay together why will you send her number when you can ask her to call me” so I ended up calling her she was rude when she finally picked up the phone this was how it went ” me: hello, Good day ma’am.
Brother’s wife: yes, who are you and how did you get this number ” I explained myself and she was like okay. That was how the conversation ended. Each time, my fiancé reminds me to call her so we’ll have some sort of closure, so what did I do? I called her and the same thing that happened the last time we spoke happened again 3 more times . For me first impression matters a lot, so I stopped calling her and I told my fiancé I can’t keep on going around in circles he agreed with me. Presently: she’s a huge rock in the middle of my relationship, I sense jealousy in her tune when she talks. like right now it’s worst because she’s always looking for ways to get me angry. I stopped doing things to please her buh she keeps on coming with her negativity And her toxic vibe. In all sense thanks for writing this article, she’s all of those things listed below.


Trying to absorb this and feeling nit to blame myself for all that’s happened. My mother passed away and my brothers have disowned me as they felt I did not go home often enough to see my mum. They have even had a go at my family. Ignored me my partner my daughters and my son in laws at my s funeral. They have made me feel the bad one.


Sorry to hear how badly you were mistreated. This same thing happened to me at a family funeral a few weeks ago. My brother sat with his back to me and wherever i was he would leave the area. Said not one word to me. Then 3 days later he calls and acts like nothing happened. His wife has never liked me but it hasn’t interferred with our communicating. Guess he’s now taking sides and showing his wife how loyal he is to her. Anyway, i am now an orphan so would you adopt me? lol

Brijmohan H

I joined a group of my colleagues to end up being friends and a toxic friend of mine didn’t like me for the simple reason that the leader liked my company more than him (possibly) and he had been around for 12 years. He manipulated my leader in all ways plus started showing me down in front of the rest of group in a “helpful” way thinking his life is perfect. Over time I learnt he lies all the time and my leader was totally under his control through some magic invisible string which he pulled when he like. One fine day, as he was playing his usual game, I confronted him and told him to stop playing this game. The right thing happened. The leader now hates me to the core for saying this and being rude – he was blind all along when I was insulted in every possible opportunity. I am glad I said what I did and also I said sorry to him for my behaviour but I will still stick to what I said. I truly believe he will learn his lesson through Karmic cycle. I am free.


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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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